Bank of America Downtime Rattles Nerves

Bank of America's web site was offline for at least five hours Monday, leaving customers searching for information the outage.

There's never a good time for an all-day web site outage. But with many Americans anxious about the stability of the banking system, Bank of America's web site was offline for at least five hours Monday. In a sign of customer nerves, the phrases "bank of america" and "bank of america login" surged to the top of Google Trends as Internet users sought information about why they couldn't access their accounts.

"We've had sporadic interruption of online banking service," BofA spokesman Tara Burke told CNet. "It doesn't impact customer information, just the ability to access it. We are continuing to correct the error. The site should return shortly."

Bank of America recently agreed to acquire Merrill Lynch, one of a number of U.S. financial institutions to seek mergers or rescues during the current Wall Street crisis. The market turbulence has apparently led to increased traffic at many financial web sites, with at least four online brokerage sites experiencing performance problems last week.

It's not yet clear whether the problem was limited to the bank's "sitekey" subdomain, a secure domain used to validate logins, or was more widespread. Domains using SSL encryption to authenticate users typically have a slightly slower response time than non-SSL pages, and in theory would be more likely to struggle during periods of extraordinary traffic. That's one reason banks began including login forms on non-SSL pages, a strategy that has allowed them to display login forms on their high-traffic home pages, but has drawn criticism from some security professionals.

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